Fairfax County Police are investigating a company accused of targeting elderly homeowners and using scare tactics to get them to buy services they don't need.
Rose Mikus, of Reston, Virginia, and Deborah Deutschendorf, of Springfield, got unsolicited visits from a company called Savannah's Tree & Yard Experts. Both said a person identifying himself as Johnny Walker told them he noticed they had dead trees in their yard and said he and his crew could remove them.
“Starting at $3,800,” Mikus said.
“The whole amount was almost $10,000,” Deutschendorf said.
They each paid the company in full and were told to make the checks out to the owner, Michael Jackson. Deutschendorf's elderly neighbor across the street also wrote a check to Jackson for $1,000.
In all three cases, the consumers don't dispute the trees were dead, but they're upset the crew never returned to remove the stumps like their contracts stated.
Mikus said they also told her they found a bigger problem: Three holes in her roof. They said they had proof.
“He rang the doorbell again and showed me this wet insulation, which I assumed came out of one of the holes in the roof,” Mikus said.
She agreed to pay $14,000 but decided to get a second opinion from a licensed roofer before the work started. That roofer told her there weren’t any holes.
She canceled the contract and called News4.
News4 learned the company and its owner are not licensed in Virginia to do roof work or other structural repairs, but a license isn't required for tree removal in the state.
“The biggest thing i want to do, the takeaway I want consumers to have, is that it's not their fault that people lied to them and we're here to help if needed,” said Melissa Samar of Fairfax County Land Development Services.
County officials are looking into the three complaints of the unfinished work, and police are investigating Savannah's Tree & Yard Experts.
Jackson did not respond to several calls and text messages, so News4 called another number to set up an appointment for an estimate and set up hidden cameras.
Within minutes of walking around the yard, Jackson and a man named Jeff said beyond just cutting trees, they do other work.
Asked if they were licensed, Jackson said there was no need to worry about that.
When News4 revealed it was investigating the three complaints, Jackson denied receiving any messages and said he didn’t remember the customers.
“I have other people who work under me, so I don't know what they do all the time," Jackson said.
Fairfax County Police aren't sharing many details regarding their investigation into the company because it's still ongoing, but they confirmed Mikus’ complaint is part of a larger fraud investigation.
Reported by Susan Hogan, produced by Meredith Royster and edited by Perkins Broussard.